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After this documentation was released in July 2003, I was approached by Prentice Hall and asked to write a book on the Linux VM under the Bruce Peren's Open Book Series.

The book is available and called simply "Understanding The Linux Virtual Memory Manager". There is a lot of additional material in the book that is not available here, including details on later 2.4 kernels, introductions to 2.6, a whole new chapter on the shared memory filesystem, coverage of TLB management, a lot more code commentary, countless other additions and clarifications and a CD with lots of cool stuff on it. This material (although now dated and lacking in comparison to the book) will remain available although I obviously encourge you to buy the book from your favourite book store :-) . As the book is under the Bruce Perens Open Book Series, it will be available 90 days after appearing on the book shelves which means it is not available right now. When it is available, it will be downloadable from http://www.phptr.com/perens so check there for more information.

To be fully clear, this webpage is not the actual book.
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5.1 Linear Address Space

From a user perspective, the address space is a flat linear address space but predictably, the kernel's perspective is very different. The linear address space is split into two parts, the userspace part which potentially changes with each full context switch and the kernel address space which remains constant. The location of the split is determined by the value of PAGE_OFFSET which is at 0xC0000000 on the x86. This means that 3GiB is available for the process to use while the remaining 1GiB is always mapped by the kernel.

The linear virtual address space as the kernel sees it is illustrated in Figure 5.1. The area up to PAGE_OFFSET is reserved for userspace and potentially changes with every context switch. In x86, this is defined as 0xC0000000 or at the 3GiB mark leaving the upper 1GiB of address space for the kernel.

Figure 5.1: Kernel Address Space

8MiB (the amount of memory addressed by two PGDs5.3) is reserved at PAGE_OFFSET for loading the kernel image to run. It is placed here during kernel page tables initialisation as discussed in Section 4.6.1. Somewhere shortly after the image5.4, the mem_map for UMA architectures, as discussed in Chapter 3, is stored. With NUMA architectures, portions of the virtual mem_map will be scattered throughout this region and where they are actually located is architecture dependent.

The region between PAGE_OFFSET and VMALLOC_START - VMALLOC_OFFSET is the physical memory map and the size of the region depends on the amount of available RAM. As we saw in Section 4.6, page table entries exist to map physical memory to the virtual address range beginning at PAGE_OFFSET. Between the physical memory map and the vmalloc address space, there is a gap of space VMALLOC_OFFSET in size, which on the x86 is 8MiB, to guard against out of bounds errors. For illustration, on a x86 with 32MiB of RAM, VMALLOC_START will be located at PAGE_OFFSET + 0x02000000 + 0x00800000.

In low memory systems, the remaining amount of the virtual address space, minus a 2 page gap, is used by vmalloc() for representing non-contiguous memory allocations in a contiguous virtual address space. In high memory systems, the vmalloc area extends as far as PKMAP_BASE minus the two page gap and two extra regions are introduced. The first, which begins at PKMAP_BASE, is an area reserved for the mapping of high memory pages into low memory with kmap() as discussed in Chapter 10. The second is for fixed virtual address mappings which extend from FIXADDR_START to FIXADDR_TOP. Fixed virtual addresses are needed for subsystems that need to know the virtual address at compile time such as the Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controller (APIC)5.5. FIXADDR_TOP is statically defined to be 0xFFFFE000 on the x86 which is one page before the end of the virtual address space. The size of the fixed mapping region is calculated at compile time in __FIXADDR_SIZE and used to index back from FIXADDR_TOP to give the start of the region FIXADDR_START

The region required for vmalloc(), kmap() and the fixed virtual address mapping is what limits the size of ZONE_ NORMAL. As the running kernel needs these functions, a region of at least VMALLOC_RESERVE will be reserved at the top of the address space. VMALLOC_RESERVE is architecture specific but on the x86, it is defined as 128MiB. This is why ZONE_ NORMAL is generally referred to being only 896MiB in size; it is the 1GiB of the upper potion of the linear address space minus the minimum 128MiB that is reserved for the vmalloc region.


... PGDs5.3
8MiB is simply a reasonable amount of space to reserve for the purposes of loading the kernel image
... image5.4
Usually at the 16MiB mark to keep memory reserved for ZONE_ DMA.
... (APIC)5.5
Further discussion on the APIC is beyond the scope of this document.

next up previous contents index
Next: 5.2 Managing the Address Up: 5. Process Address Space Previous: 5. Process Address Space   Contents   Index
Mel 2004-02-15